Warren Morgan: Communities should be granted real devolution

Warren Morgan, Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council
Warren Morgan, Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council

Councils are on the front line of delivery on social care, housing, the environment, economic growth, community cohesion and doorstep issues that matter most to voters.

What local government does impacts on all of us, every day. Local government should not be forgotten in the coming General Election.

We need a fundamental review of how both local government and social care are funded. They are inextricably linked, and far too reliant on outdated property taxes. The piecemeal reforms of the current government in adding two per cent to council tax bills to fund social care, and the full retention of business rates, do not go far enough.

The trend towards councils bidding for ever shrinking pots of money to be spent on projects determined by Whitehall should end. Councils need the freedoms and flexibilities thus far only offered to directly elected mayors. Where responsibilities are given to councils by central government, funding or revenue raising powers should follow. With these freedoms and flexibilities should come real devolution, true localism with powers passed not just to city and town halls but to neighbourhoods as well. Communities should have the means to identify and address priority issues they live with daily, in partnership with their council.

Community partnership is one means of moving local government closer to those it serves, the other is digital engagement that makes councils as accessible and responsive as Amazon or Facebook.

Councils must be free to build and buy, whether council housing or joint venture schemes, and Right to Buy should be rolled back to previous limits. The ability to manage the levels of buy-to- rent and houses in multiple occupancy ought to be considered. The power for councils to create, build and run schools to address local need should be restored.

I support a vision of local government that ensures the basics are delivered well, that ensures the vulnerable are well cared for and safeguarded, and where local and regional economic growth delivers for the whole community. In power locally we have risen to the challenges of rising pressures and falling funding with innovation, vision and competence, through a knowledge of the communities we serve.

Cllr Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council